Surviving A Toxic Workplace

Employee-wearing-gas-mask

The toxic workplace.

If you’re lucky, you’ve never had to work in one. If you’re not so lucky, then you understand how dysfunctional it can be and how challenging it can be to survive working in one.

At first glance, the toxic work place may look like any other office. People appear to be hard at work, doing whatever it is that they do for whatever reasons drive them. If you spend any amount of time in or around a truly dysfunctional organization, however, you eventually begin to notice the fault lines.

Left alone without any attention given to them, those barely visible cracks begin to widen until one day what was a hairline fracture has expanded into a replica of the Grand Canyon.  Unlike the real Grand Canyon, this one just ain’t pretty. Working it in day and day out isn’t healthy for you, either.

How can you survive a toxic workplace without becoming infected by the stupidity and narrow-mindedness that surrounds you?

Here are some ideas:

  • Be aware of its existence. You’ll need to know what’s really going in order to protect your own professional well-being.  Identify the sources of discontent and make sure you are not unwittingly adding to the dysfunctional dynamic.
  • Talk to someone about it. You shouldn’t have to endure the madness as a solo act. Maybe that someone is your supervisor, a trusted colleague, an outside mediator or your significant other. Sharing the insanity will be good for your blood pressure, too.
  • Drive on despite it. You know there are problems but you still have a job to do. Do it. Try to avoid the drama and those who seem to enjoy a starring role it in.
  • Watch your back. You don’t like to think that there is a target on it, but you could be wrong. Your innocence in the situation doesn’t guarantee your survival. Nice guys are sometimes also known as collateral damage.
  • Plan your exit strategy. Consider whether or not you want to be associated with a toxic organization in the first place. If you ultimately decide that you don’t want to spend so many hours per day in such an environment, start looking for your next job while you have the benefit of a paycheck now.

Whatever you do, be sure to take care of yourself mentally, emotionally and physically. Exposure to toxicity in the workplace can be draining personally and professionally. While you are trying to sort things out for yourself:

  • Focus on the good that you see and that you do. You can’t change the behavior of other people especially if they don’t want to change. Ironically, some individuals are unhappy and choose to stay that way. Just think of them as the professional cockroaches among us. They will survive long after others have left the building.
  • Avoid taking sides with any warring parties.
  • Examine your own behavior. Make sure you’re not inadvertently adding fuel to the growing fire.  Not everyone sees things the same way. Maybe something you are innocently doing is causing angst with others.
  • Update your resume. It sounds like you’re going to eventually need it.

If you have any experience with toxic workplaces or tips you can share for surviving one, please add a comment and share your wisdom.

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